Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of The Water Skier magazine, the official publication of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. If you are not a member of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and you are interested in receiving the quarterly magazine, join now.
U.S. water ski athlete Erika Lang capped off her 2019 season by setting a new women’s world tricks record of 11,260 points, becoming the first woman to eclipse the 11,000-point mark in tricks. Lang, 24, of Gilbert, Ariz., kicked off her 2020 season by winning women’s tricks at the 60th Nautique Moomba Masters in March in Melbourne, Australia. She recently took some to reflect on her recent accomplishments in an interview with The Water Skier magazine.
TWS: First, congratulations on winning the Moomba Masters. How did it feel to start out the season by picking up a major title?
EL: Thank you so much! I’m so excited to start the season out strong with a win at the Moomba Masters and I’m looking forward to the rest of the events this year.
TWS: You also won Moomba in 2018 and 2014. Can you describe the challenges that go along with competing on the Yarra River with the ever-changing current?
EL: Yeah, the Yarra River can definitely be a little bit challenging at times since the current changes so frequently but it’s very manageable once you learn to adapt to the conditions. Since the current speed fluctuates so often, I’m always watching it and right before I go off the dock, I decide how much to adjust the speed for both my hand and toe pass.
TWS: The early part of the water ski season was on hold due to the Novel COVID-19 Virus. Did it affect your return to the United States at all, and how has it affected your life and training?
EL: Yeah it was crazy being over in Australia when the COVID-19 Virus was becoming a much bigger threat. Australia still hadn’t been hit as hard as the U.S at the time so I felt a little bit isolated from the situation, but once I got back to the U.S it was crazy. Since returning I’ve just been laying low at my parents’ house in Arizona. They live on a ski lake, so I’ve still been able to train a bunch, which has been nice.
TWS: I know you had been striving to break your world record, what came together for you back in October when you were able to do it, and became the first female to eclipse 11,000 points?
EL: Breaking the 11,000-point barrier had always been a dream of mine and to finally put the run together in a tournament was amazing. I’ve had that run for a few years, but just hadn’t been able to have everything come together in a tournament. Until last year I had been trying to break the barrier with a wake 7 at the end of my hand pass instead of a ski line back to back. And what’s crazy is the first tournament I replaced the 7 with the ski line I ended up breaking the record. The ski line is just a much more consistent trick to do, especially at the end of an exhausting hand run.
TWS: In this latest world-record performance, which trick was the first you ever got credit for in a tournament, and how old were you, and which trick was the last you got credit for in a tournament, and how old were you?
EL: In my world record performance the first trick I ever got credit for in a tournament was my wake five front when I was 8 years old and the newest trick I ever got credit for was my ski line back to back when I was 23 years old.
TWS: What do you have planned next for increasing your tricks score?
EL: I definitely want to increase my trick score in the future and I really think I’m capable of bringing the record up to around 11,500 or 11,600. I have the tricks for it already, but I just need to implement them into a run that’s in the 20 second time frame. The two tricks I’m wanting to implement are a toe line 5 into my toe pass and a ski line five front into my hand pass.
TWS: In recent years you have also excelled in women’s wakeboarding. What motivated you to start competing in the professional tournaments?
EL: What motivated me to start competing in professional wakeboarding was just knowing that I had all the right background tools to be successful in the sport. I was a level 10 gymnast as well as my trick ski background so I really wanted to give it my best shot and see how far I could take it. I would always see the wakeboarders at the Masters and a goal of mine was to one day compete and make the podium in both trick and wake, which I was finally able to accomplish in 2018 and 2019. I always love challenging myself, and this was a personal goal that I wanted to accomplish.
TWS: How has wakeboarding helped you in tricks, and how has tricks helped you in wakeboarding?
EL: Tricks played a huge role in my wakeboarding career as a lot of the basic inverts and spins transferred over directly. However, I had to tweak a few things as the technique is different on a wakeboard versus a trick ski. On the trick ski I use line tension a lot more whereas on the wakeboard I rely more on the wake to get the right pop and takeoff for each trick. Not only did trick skiing help my wakeboarding but wakeboarding has helped my skiing by making me much more confident on my ski. I think learning a new event has given me more control and awareness on the water since I now do a lot of the same tricks on each board but one standing forward and one standing sideways.
TWS: What are your current goals for wakeboarding?
EL: My current goals for wakeboarding are to keep making the podium in as many events as I can and I would one day love to win a wakeboard contest. This year I’m wanting to learn a few new tricks and really try to take my riding to the next level.
TWS: What advice would you have for any youngsters out there just getting started in tricks or wakeboarding?
EL: Get as much water time as you can. I’d also recommend getting some training in a gymnastics facility and to spend as much time on the trampoline as possible. Air awareness is a huge component to both sports, and I believe that is what has helped me so much.
This interview first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of The Water Skier magazine, the official publication of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports. If you are not a member of USA Water Ski & Wake Sports and you are interested in receiving the quarterly magazine, join now.